My month-long celebration of Spooktoberfest reaches its spine-chilling climax this week, and while there’s nothing I like better than a good round of Holiday-themed posts, each year that we plug away here at ISB Industries means that I’ve got to do my best to top whatever it is I did last year.
This time around, that presents something of a problem. After all, when it came time for the scares last year, I turned to The Super-Naturals (Part One, Part Two), a six-part chiller from the minds of Brian Pulido, Jim Balent, and Mark “Manhunter” Andreyko that featured both X-Treme BMX Champ Johnny Blaze and Groot, the Tree That Walked Like a Man. Because really, when it comes to all-out Halloween madness, it just doesn’t get a whole hell of a lot crazier than that.
At least, it doesn’t under normal circumstances. But what you are about to see, ladies and gentlemen… is not normal.
For you see, in an effort to bring you the most horrifying Halloween possible this year, I have descended into my own Vault of Fear and returned with a soul-searing saga so unrelenting that I am obliged to offer you a Free Coffin* if you die of fright while reading the next two posts. If this seems too…. intense for you, please go no further! For your own safety, a link has been provided that will take you away from the shocking sights contained below, to a place where the most frightening thing you’ll see is Ernest Borgnine with a switchblade.
Because, my friends, I have returned with the work of Jim Balent, and unlike last year–and I can hardly believe myself that I am about to type this–this time, he’s not subject to Brian Pulido’s mediating influence.
Submitted for your approval…
Released just in time for Halloween 2004, “Witches and Kittens” was a two-part Halloween crossover between Tarot and Balent’s other Broadsword Comics creations the Three Little Kittens, and while I probably don’t even have to say this, it is not very good.
It is, in fact, one of the worst stories I’ve ever read, and until the release of the recent “Witch Key” storyline, it was in fact the worst Tarot story of all. Think about that. Not only is this story worse than your average comic, but it’s actually worse than every other issue of Tarot. Remember, folks: the Coward’s Exit is right here.
But maybe it’s best to start with the basics: The 3LK (as they’re often abreviated by the dozen or so fans of the book) are essentially Jim Balent’s way of saying “I drew a woman dressed as a cat for six and a half years, and you know what? Still not tired of it.” Essentially Charlie’s Angels in fetish gear, the original three-issue mini-series was described by Balent as an “all-ages action adventure” story, presumably because the lead characters refrained from hardcore nudity. This story, however, bears no such restrictions.
But anyway, all you really need to know about them (and “need” here is used in its loosest sense) is that you’ve got Cattress, Jaguara, and.. (sigh) Kitty Pop, and they go on missions for “Mommy Cat,” most of which revolve around stopping their nemesis, Latex Red, who responded to being booted from the 3LK program by putting together an army of satanic Schoolgirls and getting ginormous breast implants composed of semtex.
And really, you have no idea how much I wish I was making any of that up.
So, all on the same page? Good. Best to move on.
This story opens with Tarot looming bustily over Salem and fretting about whether or not Halloween’s gotten too commercial. Fortunately–or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it–her musings are interrupted before she can get around to asking Charlie Brown about the Great Pumpkin and/or duking it out with a cannibal gingerbread woman by the untimely arrival of the Three Little Kittens and their allegedly hilarious cat-themed sound effects:
What, you thought I was kidding? In the words of Mark Hale, “Wow. Even the motorcycles are sexist.”
Either way, the Satanic Schoolgirls end up causing the Kitten-Mobile or whatever to crash into a comic shop–which, of course, only stocks 3LK merchandise–knocking out the heroes and gaining the upper hand. Of course, this all just begs the question of just what exactly the 3LK are doing rolling through Salem on Halloween, and when the answer is revealed, it becomes the first jaw-dropping shock of the story.
Yup. Saddam Hussein.
This, I imagine, is going to require a bit of explanation, presented for your edification as a handy flashback.
Cut to Baghdad, “minutes before the war,” wherein the way for the assault by American troops was paved by three women in PVC corsets:
Because really, if you can think of a more logical course of action, I’d like to hear it.
Yes, in an altruistic effort to prevent the war from occuring, Uncle Sam sent in the 3 Little Kittens to extract Saddam Hussein in what was to be a bloodless coup, but sadly, these efforts were defeated by the actions of (and again, you’re probably gonna want to brace yourself here)…
Take away the painted-on whiskers, and that was pretty much my reaction too.
Needless to say, the operation does not go as planned, Saddam escapes to the hole in the desert where he was found later, and, mercifully, the flashback ends, without ever actually explaining why Saddam’s being transported through Massachusetts in a bright green Ferrari on Halloween. Devil’s in the details, I suppose.
To his credit, though, Balent does manage to pull off a pretty nice gag at this point as Hussein makes his escape from the palace:
It’s actually a pretty good sight gag–and by Tarot standards, it’s downright Mel Brooksian–and as much as I gripe about Balent’s attempts at humor, it’s well worth a chuckle.
Until, of course, you remember that it’s a joke made about a war that’s cost us the lives of almost four thousand American soldiers and countless Iraqi citizens in a book designed solely to present horrorporn starring large-breasted witches, at which time the crushing despair returns with a vengeance.
Anyway, back in the present, Tarot does her best to help the 3LK out of their crash, but they immediately assume that she’s a bad guy, because hey: How many women can there possibly be out there with F-cup rack and super-powers (the fact that this is a story drawn by Jim Balent notwithstanding)?
And from there–with the heroine of our story neatly incapacitated and tied up in the span of two panels–the litany of fetishes just keeps on growing, from the relatively common–Satanic Schoolgirls with ninja swords–to the downright horrendous:
Once that’s out of the way, though–along with a guest appearance by Tarot’s Boyfriend/World’s Worst Super-Hero Jon Webb and a shot of Saddam Hussein by Jim Balent by way of Salvador Dali–Hussein’s eventually captured by Latex Red, Raven Hex shows up, and that, thankfully is the end of Part One.
As for the conclusion to the story, well, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what happens, but at the very least, we can rest tonight knowing that after all that, there’s no way it could possibly get worse.
It Gets Worse.